Elisabeth Hagen to undersecretary for food safety

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON — Dr. Elisabeth Hagen will be nominated by President Obama to serve as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Undersecretary for Food Safety -- a key food-safety position that has remained vacant for more than one year. Ms. Hagen is currently U.S.D.A.'s chief medical officer, serving as an advisor to U.S.D.A. mission areas on a wide range of human health issues.

"There is no more fundamental function of government than protecting consumers from harm, which is why food safety is one of U.S.D.A.'s top priorities," said Secretary of Agriculture Tom. Vilsack. "We can and must do a better job of ensuring the safety of meat and poultry products regulated by U.S.D.A., and Dr. Hagen brings the background, skills and vision to lead U.S.D.A.'s efforts to make sure that Americans have access to a safe and healthy food supply."

U.S.D.A.’s food-safety mission includes the Food Safety and Inspection Service (F.S.I.S.), which is the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring that the nation's commercial supply of meat, poultry and egg products is safe, wholesome and correctly labeled and packaged.

Before her current U.S.D.A. post, she was a senior executive at F.S.I.S., where she played a key role in developing and executing the agency's scientific and public health agendas. She has been instrumental in building relationships and fostering coordination with food safety and public health partners at the federal, state, and local level.

Ms. Hagen taught and practiced medicine in both the private and academic sectors before joining the federal government in 2006, most recently in Washington, D.C. She holds an M.D. from Harvard Medical School and a B.S. from Saint Joseph's University. Dr. Hagen completed her specialty medical training at the University of Texas Southwestern and the University of Pennsylvania, and is board certified in infectious disease. She is married and lives with her husband and two young children in Northern Virginia.

“We are gratified that a person with Dr. Hagen’s scientific and medical training will lead the agency’s food safety efforts,” said J. Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute, in response to the pending nomination. Mr. Boyle added although the meat industry is proud of the progress it has made in reducing bacteria on both fresh and ready-to-eat meat and poultry products over the last decade, there is still more work to be done. “We look forward to working with Dr. Hagen and her team so that we may achieve our mutual goal: ensuring the safest meat and poultry supply possible,” Mr. Boyle said.

The North American Meat Processors Association also welcomed the announcement. “We're looking forward to working with her to ensure our industry remains at the forefront of bringing high-quality, safe products to consumers,” said Phil Kimball, N.A.M.P.’s executive director.

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